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Monday, January 14, 2013

T1D: Lows, Highs, Laughter

Type I Diabetes is not easy to live with. I usually do not let on about this fact when I tell others about my diagnosis. However, it became easier to be honest with others after accepting the diabetic me. Coming to terms with T1D for me was much more that just seeking treatment and sticking with it. It involved accepting diabetes as a part of myself and loving myself (and my diabetes) with all I had.

For almost four years, I did not carry around Glucagon or snacks. For almost four years I assured myself and everyone close to me that diabetes was "not a big deal". At first, I just tested four times a day, counted/estimated carbs, took the amount of insulin they said to take (nothing less and nothing more). My A1Cs were good, I felt good. I had my first "real" low when I was 20 years old. I was high (on weed), and I was confused and terrified. I was shaking. "I feel like I'm going to pass out." - I said to my boyfriend (now husband). "It's not the weed" (I'm an experienced smoker). Next thought: "I should test my blood sugar" (God bless me). "It's 42, I need juice, please get me juice, now, NOW." I chugged the tall glass of orange juice. "It's getting worse, please don't let me die." Within 5 minutes, I could feel the calmness creeping back in. "I'm starting to feel better", I said finally, drinking more juice. I didn't even test again after that (just once later, before bed). This happened a couple of months after I started insulin therapy. I was a brave soul back then... That is not to say this experience didn't shake me. I realized then that this was serious. However, I still didn't always carry snacks or Glucagon. But I started paying much more close attention to how I feel, having then realized that this could actually make me pass out (or worse). 

Flash forward two years: I'm living abroad, I'm broke and I can't afford to test often. I'm high on Moroccan (or Pakistani) hashish, I'm writing a research paper, I'm feeling quite stressed, and I'm feeling "tingly"? Something's off.... I must be really low, I think, quickly reaching for crust-less white bread (yep, in Spain, they sell crust-less bread slices!), Nutella, juice, whatever... 20 or 30 minutes pass. It gets worse, I feel shaky, terrified, awful... I test, finally: 340... WTF... It takes me another 30 minutes or so to figure out that what I am actually feeling is panic: what a way to learn that anxiety attacks and low blood glucose feel damn about the same. stupid paper, stupid money, stupid diabetes.

Which of course brings me to laughter - when tripping on mescaline a few years ago, I finally accepted myself as a diabetic. 

[If you're unfamiliar, Google the use of psychedelics in therapy and the use of MDMA in the treatment of PTSD (check out maps.org for recent studies). I may "defend" (explain in depth along with what Walking the Dragon means to me) all this is another post, but for now suffice it to say that classic psychedelics like mescaline or psilocybin have extremely low toxicity, and under the right set and setting can be powerful tools for self-exploration, extremely honest conversation, and self-acceptance. I am not saying this cannot be achieved without drugs or suggesting that anyone should use any drugs by the way. Also, I should mention that they are extremely powerful, mind-altering substances, and one should be well-prepared (in all the D-ways and the non-D-ways), well-researched, and have a sitter if they do ever engage.]

In any case - back to the story. I was tripping (mildly but effectively), and I went to check my blood sugar. My meter, instead of looking annoying to me as it usually does looked shiny and animated, welcoming and inviting. My shiny bottles of insulin looked even more friendly. "All this stuff - I'm so lucky to have it" I thought, reflecting on people 100 years ago, for whom T1D was a not-so-quick and awful death-sentence. Seemed so funny to put in a test strip, wait for the screen to turn on, prick my finger, squeeze out blood, apply it to the test strip and wait for a number - in fact I'm pretty sure I burst out laughing. This is who I am - I thought - Diabetic. And I am so lucky to be alive, to be healthy (T1D notwithstanding), to be able to enjoy life, to be able to know within such a small range of error what my blood glucose level is, and to be loved. And to love myself - with Diabetes - to LOVE my diabetic self... 

Today, I test frequently (understatement?), use a CGM, and hoard numerous snacks, glucose tablets (and even Glucagon!) with me at all times. And I tell many more people about my diabetes, along with the challenges that come with it. It upsets me much less than it used to when I encounter uneducated (even prejudiced) people, and it doesn't bother me that much anymore if people act like they feel sorry for me. Because I know myself and my disease, and try to be open and honest about it (instead of ashamed and ignorant) I can live better with it. And for that, I'm truly grateful. 

Con mucho amor ~M

2 comments:

  1. You are honest and truthful. Thank you so much for writing so candidly. I love this shit!
    .. thanks for following me on the twatter (though I will admit to not really using it all that often)

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  2. Thank you Scully - appreciate it LOTS! :)

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